Wicker refers to a weaving technique used for cane, rattan, willow and other natural materials. Warps or vertical spokes are laid, and an under-and-over weaving pattern produces the firm and sturdy wicker fabric. Variations include a double weaving pattern or a triple weaving pattern. Double and triple weaves may be more durable, but all are considered wicker weaves.
Rattan is one of the most common materials for wicker furniture. Rattan is cut from the rattan palm and used in its unprocessed form, with the bark or skin and pith still remaining. It is a strong, durable and flexible material. It is typically quite thick and is often combined with other materials to form an entire piece.
Cane is the skin or bark of the rattan palm. It can be processed into narrow strips or much wider ones and is typically used for chair seats, curved surfaces and tying joints in wicker furniture. The natural finish is quite glossy, and cane is most commonly left unfinished.
Reed is the material inside the rattan palm, the pith. This is a thin, flexible plant material with a lengthwise grain. It is often used for basket weaving but may also be found as an ornamental component in wicker furniture. It has no natural finish, so it stands up quite well to paint or stain.
Paper rush mimics cattails and other natural materials. It is typically woven around a wire core for strength and is found in antique wicker pieces from the 1920s forward. It has a distinct diagonal twist and can be unwrapped. Paper rush remains a common material for wicker goods today.
Willow and Other Materials
Although wicker furniture is most often woven using materials derived from the rattan palm, wicker baskets can use a variety of natural materials. Willow branches, blackberry brambles and any thin and flexible reed can be soaked and woven to form both large and small wicker baskets.